Unemployment and Relief by State 1934

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Map Code: Ax00366

The Dustbowl symbolized America’s fall from its seeming ‘manifest destiny’ of endless expansion and growth. Caused by massive erosion of critical topsoil through drought and over-farming, 150,000 square miles (388,500 square km) of the Midwest were desertified, producing ‘black blizzards’ that choked cattle and buried farms. The Great Depression, which followed the 1929 Wall Street Crash, was already entrenched when a string of bank collapses triggered by the Dustbowl gave it second wind. President Roosevelt had already sought to remedy the crisis by a massive programme of relief, creating employment though the Public Works Administration. This was amplified by the Works Progress Administration, while the Agricultural Adjustment Act and National Recovery Administration aimed to restore prices for industrial and farming products, by stimulating demand. Roosevelt’s policies had a positive effect, but ultimately recovery would arrive with the boom in demand resulting from World War II.

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